Bar Tender Training – Setting the bar for a life at sea

When I went to Sea, I had run bars and clubs and so was very experienced in the bar world and so when I started the training, I thought this will be a piece of cake. The one challenge I knew I would face was the cocktail creations as in bars at home we were the kings of the vodka coke and the Jager bomb but not the fancy pants cocktails you see on cruise ships. When I first came onboard there were 10 of us in training and we had 10 days to pass it and if we did, we would be sent to other ships and if we didn’t then we would be demoted to bar steward and must work our way back up. The difference between the two positions is that the bartender runs the bar and makes the drinks, and the steward takes the orders on the floor and delivers them and assists the bar tenders with what they need for service. There is also a bar utility who will restock the glassware and drinks and cut fruits and do stock orders and generally assist the team and if all work together well it can make the perfect level of service for the passengers. This was the ultimate bar goals.


When we first went into training, they told us we could not use the crew bar other than to buy water which I thought was okay as we were doing 11-hour days and then having to study at night. However, 2 of the boys in my group didn’t listen to this rule. How will anyone know they said not knowing that on ships everyone knows everything about everyone. And then just to ensure there was no hiding it one of the guys came to training the next day with a hickey on the side of his neck. The trainer was so mad, and the guy really screwed up a lot of his chances as now he was unable to be in a passenger facing bar and to practice anything he had to be in the dining room bar behind the scenes which is not great to help you get prepared for work service.


We had a rolodex filled with hundreds of cocktails we had to memorise, and you didn’t just have to know the ingredients, but you had to know the exact measurements, or you stocktake would be wrong and then it had to have the correct garnish, so every drink went out to standard. 4 days in I was feeling confident, and I was learning my cocktails well (well for a dyslexic) and we were practicing at the nightclub. While there the trainer would ask us to make drinks and so he asked me for a mocktail that was blended. I would make the mocktail perfect but then I could not make the orange slice sit on the edge of the glass as garnish and he would say you have taken to long drink has melted start again. This happened 5 times and I was close to tears and beyond frustrated and he said to me what have you learned here? I told him that I will talk people into a different mocktail as this one is my nemesis and he told me no when you prep cut a slit in the orange slices before service. It was so simple and yet it never occurred to me. I wont ever forget that moment and it has taught me that when I get frustrated, and I am struggling for a solution sometimes it was all in the preparation.